April 14, 2003

In the quiet of uncertainty, a loaded word explodes

In the realm of could things get any more horrific, The Washington Post reports that the bodies of a "headless woman" and a "fetus" which might in fact be Laci Peterson and the baby she was carrying, washed up from the San Francisco bay today.

Another paper reported that the head and legs were missing from the woman's body.

People who have been following the story are leaving messages of hope and sorrow for Laci's family on the guest book of the family's site.

I found myself checking Laci's site over the last few months. Especially when her husband stopped cooperating easily with the police. I have to admit, I was playing junior private detective, seeing if I could come up with clues that made sense of the events.

Woman disappears Christmas Eve. Her husband is allegedly boating. Her baby's due February 10th, according to the family's site. That means she was maybe 7 weeks away from having her baby. I remained stumped. Nothing about this disappearance made sense. And that was what kept me checking back from time to time, seeing if they had any new leads. Any clues as to what happened to Laci.

Whatever the findings are after today, whoever the bodies turn out to belong to, it's clear that we are about to witness the unfolding of a heinous and horrific crime as investigators piece together the evidence, the timelines, the motives, etc.

Brace yourselves.

Full stop.

What caught my attention beyond the details of the story and sadness I felt from those wandering through Laci's guest book, was a single choice of a single word in the Post article.

Fetus.

That word.

The police used it in a quote, and the Post used it in the headline and first paragraph. Interesting, at least to me.

As I've pieced it together, Laci was about 7 weeks away from having the baby when she disappeared, maybe 6. She was, then, 33 or 34 weeks, or 7 1/2 months pregnant, as her family notes on their site.

I beg your pardon, but that's not a fetus, it's a baby.

And if it's him, his name was Connor.

Whoever is responsible for the death of this mother and baby should be charged with the murder of both human beings. And here comes my bold statement: When a 33-week pregnancy ends suddenly, the world hasn't lost a fetus, we have lost a baby.

I sense something going on here. An initial attempt to tell us how to feel. Perhaps.

But it's too early to discern that. I'm not sure what the motivation is on the part of the Police or the Post was in choosing the word Fetus. But I hope to find out in the days to come, watching how mainstream media, investigators, and the family come understand what happened to this "unborn child," as the Post also called the "fetus," and his mother.

Now I'll be silent, because between the not knowing and knowing, that seems appropriate.

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